Communicating Public Health Advice After a Chemical Spill: Results From National Surveys in the United Kingdom and Poland

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Objective:  The aim of this study was to enhance public health preparedness for incidents that involve the large-scale release of a hazardous substance by examining factors likely to influence public responses to official guidance on how to limit their exposure. Methods:  An online demographically representative survey was conducted in the United Kingdom (n = 601) and Poland (n = 602) to test the strength of association of trust in authorities, anxiety, threat, and coping appraisals with the intention to comply with advice to shelter in place following a hypothetical chemical spill. The impact of ease of compliance and style of message presentation were also examined.

Results:  Participants were more likely to comply if at home when the incident happened, but message presentation had little impact. Coping appraisals and trust were key predictors of compliance, but threat appraisals were associated with noncompliance. Anxiety was seen to promote behavioral change. UK participants were more likely to comply than Polish participants.

Conclusions:  Successful crisis communications during an emergency should aim to influence perceptions regarding the efficacy of recommended behaviors, the difficulties people may have in following advice, and perceptions about the cost of following recommended behaviors. Generic principles of crisis communication may need adaptation for national contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • Communications
  • Disasters
  • Behaviour
  • Trust


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